15 Top Tips for Re-doing Your Website

According to a recent survey, 70-80 percent of potential customers will check out your website before phoning or visiting your dive shop. Having an attractive, informative, mobile-friendly website is more important than ever; unfortunately, many dive operations haven’t kept up with the times.

In addition to attracting new customers, a modern website can help retailers track the effectiveness of their online ad spend. Using a Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics and other tools, business owners can track which marketing efforts are driving sales and which are a waste of money.

Whether you need to update an outdated site or your free Wix/Weebly site no longer meets your needs, use the tips below to ensure your next website is the best it can be. In addition to the 15 top tips, there are three bonus ideas based upon evaluations of more than 50 dive center websites.

Evaluate Your Current Site Using a Website Grader
Not every website needs to be redesigned from scratch. Use a website grader such as Woorank to see what’s working on your existing page and what needs to be improved.

You’ll also be able to review backlinks (other sites that link to your webpage). If a prominent website such as a local TV station, newspaper or other large publication links to your Open Water page, you don’t want to lose that traffic because the URL changes and doesn’t redirect.

Check Your Search Engine Ranking
Open an incognito window in Google Chrome (this ensures your search history isn’t factored into the search results) and Google popular scuba-related searches such as:

scuba diving gear
scuba diving lessons
dive shop
PADI open water
scuba certification
scuba diving certification
padi elearning

Take note of where your current site ranks for individual keywords and where you’d like to rank higher. You’ll use this information when writing copy for your new site.

Establish Goals
Every business website should be designed around its core profit centers. For one dive center, that might be charters, for another it might be gear, or their IDC program. Also, jot down any new areas where you hope to grow (exotic travel, kids programs, etc.) to ensure there’s a home for these topics on your new site.

To prevent your new site from looking like a garage sale, create 3-5 sub-categories such as Equipment, Instruction and Travel. Give each sub-topic prominent placement on your homepage using a graphic so visitors looking for information on that topic can quickly navigate to what they need. In the example below, Project AWARE presents visitors with three images – each a portal to a different section of their website.

A recent study found 75% of website visitors form judgments about a business based on its web site and 94% of a user’s first impression is design-related.

In other words, even if dive equipment is your core business, don’t cover the homepage in pictures of dive gear. This is overwhelming to the eye and may confuse and intimidate new divers. Instead, use one attractive image on the homepage to act as a gateway to more information.

Who Are Your VIPs?
When deciding what content to put on your homepage, also consider who your core customers are and what they’re looking for. Here are a few ideas:

– People looking to get certified
– Travelers interested in booking boat dives
– Potential IDC candidates
– Certified divers who want to refresh or improve their skills
– Cruise ship guests
– Divers who need gear advice
– Parents interested in an summer activity for their kids

Size Up the Competition
Explore a handful of competitor websites. In addition to evaluating other dive operators, choose at least one non-scuba website. The non-scuba competitor might be a cycling store, a ski/snowboard shop or a yoga studio.

– Write down 2-3 things each website does well.
– Note 2-3 things the website does poorly (tip: check out their sites on a mobile device).
– Ask yourself, “if a competing dive center started running my business tomorrow, what would they change?”

Choose a Design That Promotes Your Profit Centers
After defining your goals, key customers, and what parts of your existing website you’d like to update, you’re ready to choose a design. Use the profit centers you’ve identified to narrow down the options. For example, a dive resort that caters to island guests and cruise ship passengers should choose a design that allows them to adequately address the needs of both website visitors.


A local dive center that wants to promote local diving and showcase activities should reserve space for both of those elements.

The site design should also be able to utilize Google Analytics and Facebook pixel code. If you’re not sure, do a quick Google search or ask your web designer.

Finally, responsive design (where the website content adjusts to the size of the user’s screen), is an absolute must. Design with mobile views in mind because there’s a greater than 50% chance your site will be viewed on a mobile device.

Customers should be able to easily navigate on a phone, tablet or desktop device. A mobile-friendly design also helps your business stay competitive; Google penalizes slow-loading, non-responsive pages with a low search ranking.

Compose Key Messages
According to a 2018 article in Inc, 70-80 of customers visit a small businesses’ website before contacting or visiting the store, so it’s critical your website 1) ranks highly in search 2) acts a 24/7 sales person.

Refer to your keyword research to identify the words or phrases where you’d like to rank at the top of Google search. Use keywords words in:

– Page titles and descriptions
– The page URL (ex. divecenter.com/learn-to-scuba-dive-your-city)
– As headlines

When a customer lands on your website, it should be 100% clear your dive operation is the #1 choice for dive equipment, instruction, charters, etc. Here are a few examples of key messages:

Small class sizes and all-inclusive pricing
Dive with the best! 5 Star ratings on Facebook, TripAdvisor and Yelp
The island’s most eco-friendly dive resort

Don’t Overbuild
There’s no way to fit all your knowledge and expertise into one website. Furthermore, the vast majority of visitors will only spend about 15 seconds scanning each page.

Make sure important info stands out by:

  • Using bullet points
  • Put key messages in bold
  • Using images or or sub-headers to break up long sections of text
    (long = 100 words or more).
  • Keep paragraphs short (2-3 sentences)
  • Avoid using industry jargon such as “confined water, knowledge development and acronyms DSD, RSTC, etc.)
  • Put important info “above the fold” in other words: don’t assume people will scroll down.

With websites, less is more. A flashy video can slow page load time and you should never assume a visitor will watch the whole thing.

That said, it’s a good idea to incorporate a few videos on your website. While only 25 percent of website visitors will read the majority of a webpage, 80 percent will watch a one-minute video in its entirety. Embed course promo videos from PADI’s YouTube channel, or create your own. In either case, make sure your webpage includes text with the same information the video provides, not everyone will watch the video, and if they do they might not have their sound on.

Make Contact Info and Hours Easy to Find
According to a study reported in Inc, 44 percent of visitors leave a website if they can’t find basic contact info such as an email address or phone number. The top right corner of the homepage is typically where a phone number should go. In the same corner, include a link to your Contact page.

The Contact Us page should include your store hours, all contact info and an embedded Google map. Your contact page is also a good place for social media icons and links if you don’t already have them in the website header or footer.

Connect and Be Compelling
Prevent website visits from being one-and-done by inviting visitors to start a relationship with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and be the first to know about trips and special offers – in addition to linking to your Facebook/Instagram/YouTube account(s).  If you don’t connect with new visitors, it’s like they were never there.

Compel website visitors to take the next step. Tell them what you want them to do and include a large, bold text link or a CTA (call to action) button.

– Schedule a free, no-obligation equipment consultation [CONTACT US]
– Small class sizes for personal attention, Reserve your spot! [SEND BOOKING INQUIRY]
– Download our guide to the top 10 local dives [GET THE GUIDE]
– What’s on your dive travel bucket list? [LET US KNOW]

Don’t Expect Website Visitors to Call for Answers
After working hard to optimize your website, you can easily lose a customer by not including key information such as how much your class cost or when classes are offered.

The age of customers picking up the phone to get this information is over. In a Sep 2018 Google article on best practices, Google shared the following findings:

More than half of smartphone users purchased from a company other than the one they’d originally intended to use because the information provided by another brand was more useful

If you’re concerned about stating the price of the course because the “guy down the road” offers it cheaper, educate customers why your course is worth the extra cost. Maybe you have smaller classes sizes, include rental gear, have a on-site pool, etc. Also consider whether the bottom-dollar customer is one you want in the first place.

Use Images of Smiling Divers
In addition to showing underwater images of your local environment, help customers visualize the fun they’re going to have and the underwater life they’ll see. Use some of your most liked images from social media, or visit the Toolbox section of the PADI Pros site to download images and videos. Quality images of divers having fun help new customers understand one of the main reasons people fall in love with diving: the people!

Create an About Us Page That Turns Visitors into Friends

The About Us page is the second most-visited page by new customers and it should leave no doubt in the customer’s mind that you are THE dive shop they should work with.

  • Include links to reviews on Facebook, TripAdvisor, and/or Yelp
  • Showcase smiling photos of your staff, list their certifications and experience  
  • Talk about why you LOVE running a dive shop
  • Share a few details about your hobbies, alma mater, pets, anything to help a website visitor relate to you as a person.
  • Reassure nervous new divers that their scuba class will be safe and fun.
  • Include testimonials if you don’t have them elsewhere.

Find the Right Web Designer
Identify some websites you like and scroll to the bottom of the page. You may find a link to the person or company who built the site.

As part of the vetting process, ensure you’ll have access to update the site whenever you want. Also find out about after-hours support and what happens if the person who built the site gets hit by a bus.

Lastly, ask if they can set up your Google Analytics/Tags and install a Facebook Pixel. These essential tools require installing small snippets of code.

Test Drive Your New Site
Because your website is likely the consumer’s first encounter with your business, make sure it makes a good first impression. Invite friends, customer spouses, grandparents, etc. to evaluate your new site, in person if possible.

Ask them to first look at your site for no more than 15 seconds. What is their first impression of your business? Next, ask them to accomplish an important task like finding out how to get certified, or reserving space on your boat. Watch their mouse movements, and most importantly keep an open mind when they give you feedback.

Website Boosters:
The ideas below will help your new website rise above the competition:

A Dedicated eLearning page
Explain how eLearning saves time and also what the additional costs are. An eLearning page is also a good place to link to the medical form and eLearning student login.

Blog
A blog can help your business establish authority in a variety of areas and crush the competition in online search. It’s important that your blog be included under your domain (ex. yourdiveshop.com/blog or blog.yourdivehop.com).

Testimonial Page
Testimonials establish trust and breakdown skepticism for website visitors who are unsure about taking the next step. They’re also a way to put some of your best customers in the spotlight. Be sure you get permission and include a photo.

Changing the Lives of Marines Through Diving

kathy peper at get wet scuba

By Tara Bradley Connell

As an instructor in Palm Springs, California, Kathy Peper had no idea that one day her future dive students would be some of the toughest people in the country – the men and women of the U.S. Marines Corp.

“I met some Marines that were interested in scuba diving, and for about six years I pursued the idea to the marine base, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen,” she said. “Out of the blue, I got a call from the base asking me to teach. A week later I received a contract, and the rest is history.”

Without her dive shop on base, Peper started recruiting students at the PX – a common area on the base. Four years later, the 29 Palms Marine Base gave her a permanent location where she had access to everyone from just-out-of-boot camp to seasoned Marines and their families. To date, Peper estimates that the Marines make up 98% of her divers.

kathy peper at get wet scuba

“My goal is to service the Marines and to get them out of the barracks as a way of giving them something to do that they wouldn’t normally do,” she says. “We are a resource for the Marines but also a family. They come here and talk to me about everything.”

And she’s right. From engagement ring shopping and wedding invitations to career counseling and car repairs – with help from Peper’s boyfriend – Peper’s students tend to stick around long after their C-Card is signed. For Peper, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We keep in touch with a lot of our Marines, and many come back to dive with us for our Catalina trips,” she says. “When they’re away we stay in touch by texting or Facebook. When they’re back in town, we’ll do anything we can from storing their stuff to letting them stay with us while they get situated. It’s a community more than a dive shop.”

That family atmosphere has made such an impact that one Marine changed his last name to Peper, saying she was like a mother to him. Another credits her with saving his life by using diving to help him get out of a dark place. It’s that sense of community that has turned the base’s community of divers into a family.

With such a great response from Marines wanting to try diving, Peper was inspired to host a weekly Try Scuba event – a program that introduces Marines to diving.

How it works: After signing up online, 20 Marines are scheduled every hour for an academics overview and quiz followed by pool work to familiarize them with the gear and introductory skills.

But it’s not just about diving for this group. Peper and her team also give their Marines a little bit of old-fashioned love. Whether it’s having a peanut butter and jelly station during class or a lesson on how to make killer breakfast burritos in the barrack’s microwaves, the Get Wet Scuba team makes it their mission that the Marines feel at home. And with a 50% sign-up ratio for PADI Open Water certifications after each event, they’re making an impact.

“I could do this every month, but we have to limit the amount of students we can accept,” Peper says. “I could have 100 or 50 students a month if we had enough instructors.”

With such a high demand for instructors, Peper notes the need for other dive operators to consider reaching out and creating a positive diving community among their local Marine bases. And while it didn’t happen overnight for Peper, she couldn’t be prouder of the extended dive family she’s built through her journey.

“Once I got here I realized these people are up on the base and a lot of the guys are confined to it because they don’t have vehicles,” she says. “Many are right out of boot camp with nothing to do and away from home. They are looking for stuff to do.”

When asked how others can follow in her footsteps, Peper’s motherly advice resembles a pep talk for one of her Marines.

“You just have to reach out and find out what the opportunities are,” she says. “This is a job for someone that wants to make life better for the Marines, not just to collect a paycheck. If that’s what you want, don’t give up.”

It’s that never-give-up attitude which is why Peper has become somewhat of a matriarch for her little dive shop in Palm Springs – and been able to create a place many Marines can call home.

For more on Peper and her Try Scuba program, visit getwetscubadivers.com.

PADI® Dive Center and Resort Renewal

 

Don’t forget to mark your calendars!

PADI Retail and Resort Membership Renewal occurs every November and here’s  a few tips on how to save the most for 2019:

  • Lowest Renewal Rate – To secure the best annual renewal rate, enroll in Automatic Membership Renewal on the PADI Pros’ Site before 5 November 2018. You can find this feature on the My Account page or by using the Renewal button located on the Homepage.
  • Convenient and Cost Effective – You may renew your membership online by logging onto the PADI Pros’ Site and navigating to the Online Membership Renewal option under the My Account tab. Online Renewal provides you the ability to renew one year at a time and to enroll in Automatic Renewal for future years.
  • The Pen and Paper Method – Renewing with a paper form is still an option but why waste the paper and the time. If you’re not enrolled in auto renewal or have not renewed online, a paper renewal form will be mailed to you prior to the renewal deadline. This method will cost you more than the online methods, so strongly consider saving money and time with automatic renewal.

Don’t waste time worrying about annual membership renewals. Enroll in 2019 PADI Automatic Membership Renewal now by accessing the My Account page on the PADI Pros Site.

PADI Business Academy at 2018 DEMA Show: Google Ads Made Easy

Google’s advertising platform is getting a facelift and PADI’s Marketing Executives will be at the 2018 DEMA Show to help you discover Google’s newest advertising tools. This program, titled Google Ads Made Easy, will discuss the new changes and best practices for using this advertising platform. Stay ahead of curve by learning how to properly plan, prepare and implement Google AdWords, Display Ads and Video Ad campaigns, complemented with live demonstrations and workshops.

Sign up before 25 October 2018 and save $25 US off enrollment.

Google Ads Made Easy
Pavilion 4, Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino
Saturday, 17 November 2018
7:30 am – 12:00 pm

Register Now!

For more information, please contact Kyle Ingram or Claudia Sherry at PBA@padi.com

Leveraging PADI Travel™ for Your Group Trips

You already know that travel and scuba diving go hand in hand. You probably also know that the majority of scuba divers will take multiple international dive trips during their lifetimes. Using this fact to your advantage and offering group travel opportunities to your customers can spell success for your business.

Benefits of Organizing Group Trips

Embedding travel into your business is a proven way to engage new divers and to keep certified divers active. The promise of getting to use new skills and explore new places encourages divers to enroll in more courses and buy more equipment. Successful PADI Dive Centers sell group trips to fascinating scuba diving destinations to leverage their customers’ desire for adventure. Group trips fuel engagement by building a community of travelers who are loyal to your business. This makes dive travel a win-win for everyone involved.

Why Organize Group Trips Through PADI Travel?

Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to booking group travel. Partner with PADI Travel for your trips and get access to:

• Unbeatable group discounts – PADI Travel offers the best prices and terms around. As a global, wholesale travel agency with significant reach and purchasing power, PADI Travel is able to pass on competitive rates and terms to you when you book group trips. You have access to unbeatable group discounts (a.k.a. commissions) through PADI Travel that you can decide to pass on to your customers or to increase your margins.

• Special deals – The PADI Travel team negotiates special deals that may include anything from free enriched air nitrox fills to significant overall discounts. You can save big by securing available special offers on your next trip.

• Extra spots – One of our most popular promotions for group trips booked through PADI Travel is extra spots. Sometimes there are free cabins, rooms, equipment or other special terms for large group bookings. Again, you can decide how to manage these extras – increase your margins or pass spots on to your customers or staff.

• Diver medical insurance – Every diver in your group will benefit from the complementary diver medical insurance offered with each booking. This means reduced extra costs and more savings for your group.

Additional Benefits

If you end up with unfilled spots on your trip, PADI Travel can help you fill them. The future PADI Travel Marketplace will have global reach and help divers connect with you in order to fill your trips.

As an added benefit, PADI Travel acts as your personal tour operator. If any problems should arise prior to departure or after your customers are on the ground, the PADI Travel team will be in charge of handling issues. The 24/7 world-class customer support team is on hand not only to help you organize and fine tune your group trip, but also to deal with any problems or questions that may occur at any point. This essentially removes many of the hassles associated with organizing travel and reduces your personal workload.

You also can take advantage of the PADI Travel team of scuba travel experts to improve your knowledge of the world’s top dive destinations. Use this information to advise customers and increase your bookings. PADI Travel can help you organize, market and run successful group trips across the globe. Simply ask for a nonbinding quote the next time you organize a trip and discover new ways to thrill your customers.

The Cost to Become a Scuba Instructor Vs. Other Instructor Programs

padi instructor course

A worldwide search for PADI IDC programs revealed prices ranging from $1798US all the way up to $10,000US or more for a “zero to hero” program. In the Americas, the cheapest IDC+EFRI programs were advertised for as little $2200US; however, these bargain-basement prices didn’t include materials, PADI application fees or the Instructor Examination (IE).

After accounting for all the required costs, the average price to become a PADI OWSI in North or South America is around $3500US. With that in mind, we asked: how does the cost to become a scuba instructor compare to the cost to become a certified yoga instructor, kayak instructor or ski/snowboard instructor? The answers may surprise you.

padi instructor

Yoga Instructor

The yoga industry doesn’t have strict training guidelines like the scuba industry, but they have a widely-recognized training organization called Yoga Alliance (YA). Most gyms and yoga studios recognize a basic, 200-hour YA certification as sufficient experience to hire a new yoga instructor. As with all jobs, additional experience and certifications are beneficial.

Similar price, larger class sizes
The average cost for a 200-hour Yoga Alliance-certified training program is around $3500US. As with scuba diving, cheaper programs are available outside North America. Aspiring yogis can become instructors in Costa Rica for $3500US, or in India for $1650US. The prices do not include airfare, but they do include shared lodging.

An “intimate” teacher training consists of 15-20 students. There can be up to 50 yoga instructor candidates in one class. Also, Yoga Alliance requires continuing education (75 hours every three years).

Average pay: a yoga instructor in North America can expect to be paid $30-$35US/class, or approximately $15US/hour.

Ski or Snowboard Instructor

A ski or snowboard instructor generally needs a Level 2 certification from an internationally-recognized organization such as the Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors (CASI) or Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA). First aid training is typically required, but not included in ski/snowboard instructor course price.

More expensive
A combination Level 1 & 2 course costs around $8132 – $10,300US and training takes place over 8-12 weeks. Prices do not include airfare to the resort destination or transportation to/from the mountain. The price typically includes learning materials and shared lodging.

Average pay: a ski or snowboarding instructor in North America can expect to earn $15-$20US depending on the location and their experience.

Windsurfing Instructor

Certifying organizations include CANSail, Royal Yachting Association (RYA), or U.S. Sailing. The course length ranges from a 5-day intensive to a 10-week part-time class.

Similar cost, fewer hours
The cost to become a windsurfing instructor is $2374 – $4779US depending on the candidate’s prior experience.

Average pay: a windsurfing instructor in North America will earn around $9/hour.

Kayak Instructor

The American Canoe Association (ACA) offers instructor certifications for a variety of paddle sports (canoe, kayak, SUP).

Lower cost, fewer hours
The cost for a kayak instructor course ranges from $495 – $799US. The course takes approximately 40 hours to complete over 4-5 days.

Average pay: kayak instructors can earn $15-$19/hr depending on experience.

5 Tips for PADI Divemasters Looking to Become Instructors

Written by Guy Corsellis, PADI Regional Training Consultant for East Thailand

I recently received recognition for 20 years as a PADI Professional – a proud moment for me. Now, as a PADI Regional Training Consultant, I look back at two decades in the industry and am grateful for the journey I have been on. It has been a passion that becomes a wonderful career.

Prior to this role, as a Course Director, most of my career has been focused on instructor level training, which brings me to my question – have you thought about becoming a PADI Instructor?

Getting this ticket truly allows you to travel the world and meet some incredible industry colleagues. It is still the dream job for young and/or innovative people. If you feel comfortable helping others, if you love the ocean as much as I do and if you’re ready to be a student for life, you will have a bright future as a PADI Instructor.

Once you have decided to take this step, please allow me to share of few tips on how to become successful.

  1. Remain humble and stay positive. Being positive and optimistic and smiling by default, will motivate and inspire others around you. You will touch the lives of so many as a PADI Instructor, so make sure it’s a positive memory you leave them with. Be more than a role model – be a mentor. Remember, that the PADI system of diver education is student-centered. So display proper attitude at all times and leave your ego at the door.
  2. Persevere and expand your knowledge. Stay updated on new diving techniques, advancements in technology and equipment changes. Continue your own education and be a student yourself. That will help you understand how your students may feel under your tuition. Consider enrolling in programs that make you a stronger ambassador to the underwater environment. Divers today want to learn from those who care about something bigger than themselves.
  3. Be punctual, organized and adaptable. People depend on your choices. You are there to show our future divers proper attitude. Arrive early for classroom or confined sessions. Make sure everything is set up and ready to go when your divers arrive. Accept that logistics in your PADI Dive Centre do change and are dependent on many factors. Dive Center owners need flexible instructors that know how to adapt to unexpected situations or when under pressure.
  4. Be sociable and available. It is important to spend time with your diver students. Not just in a classroom or in the water, but during surface intervals and breaks. Remember that sociable and professional often go hand in hand (more on professionalism later). Take and make the time to have lunch with your divers. Your body and brain need food to perform at an optimum. Lunch with your students is the perfect moment in time to share experiences with your divers and become friends. At the end of the day don’t run home when the clock strikes 5:00pm, take the time to debrief and listen to your student’s needs.
  5. Be professional. You will be judged against expectations and standards. Your image and competence is important. Respect your students and pay attention to how you communicate with them. Be committed, courteous and supportive. We all learn differently, so listen to their needs.

I strongly believe that these few tips will help you to have a long and successful career. If you’re currently a part-time Divemaster, it may be a challenge for you to leave behind another career that you’re attached too. I made the choice to become a full time Instructor some time ago and never regretted it. Change is positive.

With the right attitude becoming a PADI Instructor will be a life changing event. Get out there and visit a PADI IDC or CDC near youand earn the most sought-after credential in the diving industry.

Best of success!

View the PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor landing page for more information and to research your next steps.

Career Freedom is at Your Fingertips

Navigating through life is a chore on its own so why not enjoy the ride?

Becoming a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor gives you career freedom, ignites new passions, provides meaningful challenges and opens up endless opportunities to travel abroad while making a living.

If that isn’t enough, consider this:

  • Three out of four divers choose PADI certifications – providing you with the largest market share of new customers in the diver training industry.
  • PADI Dive Centers and Resorts are located in 183 countries and territories  – providing you with the ability to travel and work around the globe as well as to explore local leadership opportunities.
  • There are more than 300 active classified listings seeking instructors for employment on the PADI Pros’ Site (updated daily) .

Contact your local PADI Instructor Development Center or Resort to determine the easiest path to becoming a PADI Instructor and use these resources to learn more.

Increase Productivity with PADI Master Scuba Diver™

Written by John Kinsella

There’s an old saying about the first step in a famous recipe: First, catch your rabbit. There’s a useful parallel here for PADI® Professionals. If you’re looking for a simple recipe to increase your productivity and have a lot of fun while you do it, first become at least a Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Then you have what you need to train Master Scuba Divers, and that’s a recipe for success.

Back in 1973, PADI Master Scuba Diver (MSD) was introduced as the ultimate recreational diver certification. Fewer than two percent of divers ever achieve the rating. Master Scuba Divers are the best of the best, an elite group of respected divers who have earned the rating through extensive training and experience. As you know, the path to MSD starts with PADI Open Water Diver certification, followed by Advanced Open Water Diver and Rescue Diver and five PADI Specialty Diver certifications. Before earning the rating, divers also have to log 50 dives. It’s open to all divers, who must be at least 12 years old.

The odds are you don’t know a great number of Master Scuba Divers. Here’s why, in the words of a few PADI Members who do know MSDs because they’ve trained a lot of them. Increasing your MSD certifications is something you may want to change as a matter of urgency.

Making Specialty Training Mainstream

Natalie Hunt is a very active PADI Course Director with PADI Five Star IDC Assava Dive Resort on Koh Tao, Thailand. She first trained Master Scuba Divers while working in Florida, USA, for Action Quest, running sailing and scuba summer camps for teens. The groups would stay for three weeks and specialties were a big part of the program. While working in the Cayman Islands, she would routinely link Enriched Air Diver with Open Water Diver course Dive Four. Hunt brought this experience with her when she arrived on Koh Tao in 1997 and has since made a point of taking specialty training, and Master Scuba Diver, mainstream.

“I incentivize PADI Rescue Divers to learn more about the different specialty programs,” Hunt says. “Here at Assava, I’ve created a program where if students come as Rescue Divers, they can stay and do all their dives and five specialties for one cost and it’s a great incentive for them to become Master Scuba Divers. Some people stay and do MSD only, others choose to do MSD and PADI Divemaster combined. It really depends on the time they have here on Koh Tao. Many people have the time to complete the dives needed.”

Hunt packages specialties (a recurring theme while researching this article) in other ways too. “We have PADI Deep, Wreck and Enriched Air Diver courses that we offer as a Tri Spec,” she says. “If they do those as a package they get a discount and all the dives are included.”

Hunt also uses specialty training to keep things interesting for PADI Pros, herself included. “Some divers, especially divemasters, have shown real interest in sidemount diving. Instead of me personally teaching that, even though I’m qualified, I have other instructors who are experienced technical divers and I ask them to teach the Sidemount Diver courses,” she explains.

“We also teach Self-Reliant Diver courses and recently I took on DSMB, which was quite interesting when I taught it for the first time with one of my divemasters. It was a good challenge for both the DM and me personally.”

Any Experts on Staff?

Using experts to help with specialties is a great way to increase the pool of potential MSDs. Hunt has a marine biologist – a past student – who adds real value to Assava’s Coral Reef Conservation specialty. “Her background knowledge of marine science and biology adds more insight to that program,” she says.

Hunt’s experience in the resort -environment has some real commonalities with Lee Johnson’s experience at PADI Five Star CDC Perth Scuba in Western Australia. When Perth Scuba opened 14 years ago, most of the training was comprised of core courses: Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver. “We didn’t have a lot of time for the specialties,” Johnson says. “We were running on minimal staff.”

But Johnson always surveyed -customers and asked about their interests and their motivation to take up scuba. “The usual favorites, such as wreck and deep diving, came out prominently in the beginning. So we started running a lot more of those types of courses,” he says. But there was a problem – one which many PADI Pros will recognize. “We would schedule a course and only have two or three students on it; not really enough to make it cost effective,” he recalls. “But you have to run it or lose face. It’s a double-edged sword – you either run it and lose money or you don’t run it and lose customers who won’t sign up for other courses because they believe you won’t run them.”

From a business efficiency perspective, Johnson had to do something. One plan was to sell gear, as most of the specialties have some sort of associated equipment. Another plan was to increase the number of specialties people did. “The MSD program seemed to be the way to do it,” he says.

“We came up with our Master Scuba Diver Challenge. We advertised five specialties and a free rescue course as a package. Divers came in, put their credit cards on the counter and chose five specialties from three levels,” Johnson says. “For level one, they chose two of the more expensive courses to run, such as those that include boat dives. Then they’d pick two courses from level two, which were more knowledge based and often had shore dives. And they chose one course from level three, which is all knowledge-based, such as the Equipment Specialist course.”

After each course, divers get a Perth Scuba T-shirt with “Master Scuba Diver Challenge” on the back and the course they completed listed on the front. They collect all the different T-shirts and, once they complete everything, they get a limited edition T-shirt that lists all the specialties and says “Master Scuba Diver Challenge Mission Accomplished.” Johnson pointed out how effective this recognition was: “Divers loved them and we’d get to see them wearing the shirts all over the place.”

To top this off, Johnson introduced the Ultimate Master Scuba Diver Challenge Weekend competition. All students who completed the MSD challenge would be eligible for the competition. This was like a mini Olympics complete with quiz questions about general diving knowledge, a pool skills assessment and a stamina challenge (all basic stuff and fun focused). The winner got a trip to Sydney with an instructor, all expenses paid, and a brand-new scuba set (Johnson negotiated a great deal on this once-a-year event).

Do Rabbits Hop?

Was this a success?  “We ran the first challenge four years ago and we had 43 participants who came through that year. We were picking up students who had a few specialties under their belts from different dive shops as well. We let them enter as long as they did their last specialty with us,” he says.

Another major benefit of Perth Scuba’s MSD challenge is that many instructors started to really enjoy teaching specific specialty courses. “Now we have a group of instructors who have designed their own presentations with local content, such as videos and images of our divers on the wrecks they’ll dive,” says Johnson. “This works really well.”

The last word belongs to Jong-Moon Lee from PADI Five Star Dive Resort Ocean Player Dive in Cebu, Philippines. Ocean Player Dive is one of the largest PADI Dive Centers in the Philippines, with a continuing education ratio pushing 50 percent. Lee mentions the importance of linking specialties: Deep and Enriched Air Diver make a great combination. He makes great use of the facilities at hand: Easy access from shore makes for easy night dives; consequently, PADI Night Diver is the number three specialty at Ocean Player Dive.

But the main point Lee makes about creating Master Scuba Divers is fundamentally simple and an essential ingredient in the MSD success recipe: “Take the time after the Advanced Open Water Diver course to explain about the specialties and the MSD rating. Make sure students know that they have already completed dive one of the associated specialty,” he says.

One thing is for certain – divers will have no interest in something they know nothing about.

If you aren’t already a Master Scuba Diver Trainer or can’t yet teach all the PADI Specialty Diver courses you’d like, contact a PADI Course Director to enroll in a few Specialty Instructor Training courses or a Master Scuba Diver Trainer preparatory course.

The Secret to Increasing Certifications Every Successful Instructor Knows

written by Megan Denny

Certain PADI® courses may be taught at the same time to enhance student knowledge or improve diver comfort. For example, you can teach the PADI Dry Suit Diver Specialty as part of the Open Water Diver® course. In addition to helping student divers gain experience and confidence, the instructor can earn certifications twice as fast.

Selling one person two classes isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Today’s consumers are used to being offered upgrades and add-ons when making a purchase. Whether it’s a phone case, extra legroom on an airplane, or an upgrade to a larger rental vehicle, most people appreciate the option to tailor a purchase to their individual needs.

By combining PADI courses, you give students the opportunity to customize their dive experience. At the same time, you’ll quickly gain certifications to reach the Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) or Master Instructor rating. Even if you’re already a seasoned instructor, increasing your Master Scuba Diver certs can help you win a free 2019 PADI membership renewal.

PADI Open Water Diver + Specialties

By pairing a PADI Specialty with the PADI Open Water Diver course you can add value to your Open Water program and boost your certification numbers. Here are a few ways to go about it:

Open Water and Digital Underwater Photographer
Underwater photography consistently ranks as one of the top interests for new divers. Invite students to make their scuba experience #instaworthy by bundling the Digital Underwater Photographer Specialty Course with Open Water. Here’s how to link the two courses together:

  • Integrate the Digital Underwater Photographer knowledge development at any point during the Open Water course
  • Conduct the Digital Underwater Photographer Level One photo dive in confined water any time after Confined Water Dive 3, or in open water as part of the tour portion of Open Water Dive 4.
  • Complete the additional open water dive for Digital Underwater Photographer Level Two certification at any point after the student diver’s Open Water certification dive.

IMPORTANT:

  • You must have the relevant PADI Specialty Instructor Rating
  • Do not conduct more than three training dives in one day

Open Water and Full Face Mask
One of the most-clicked PADI blog posts of all time is The Full Face Mask Diving Experience. Fulfill divers’ curiosity by combining the Full Face Mask Diver specialty with the Open Water Diver course. Here’s how:

  • Integrate knowledge development any time during the course
  • Conduct the Full Face Mask Confined Water Dive any time after Confined Water Dive 3.
  • Conduct Full Face Mask Dive 1 after Open Water Dive 3.
  • Integrate Full Face Mask Dive 2 with Dive 4, or complete both Full Face Mask Dives after Dive 4.

Open Water and Peak Performance Buoyancy
The most popular course combo we see is Open Water with the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty course (PPB). Add PPB knowledge development whenever its convenient during the Open Water Diver course and conduct Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive 1 skills any time during Dive 2, 3 or 4. The student must complete one additional dive beyond their Open Water course dives to complete the Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive 2 skills.

Other specialties that may be linked to the Open Water Diver course include:

Altitude Diver– integrate knowledge development at any time and conduct all four Open Water Course dives at altitude. Complete Altitude Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3, and 4. Lastly, conduct one additional dive after the Open Water Course dives to complete the Altitude Dive 2 skills – and the specialty course.

Delayed Surface Marker Buoy Diver (DSMB) – integrate knowledge development any time during the Open Water course. Conduct DSMB Dive 1 skills any time during Dive 2, 3 and 4. Conduct another dive beyond the Open Water Course dives to complete DSMB Dive 2 skills, and the DSMB Specialty.

Dry Suit Diver – integrate knowledge development, confined water performance requirements and conduct all four course dives in a dry suit. Complete Dry Suit Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3, and 4. Conduct another dive after the Open Water Course dives dives to complete the Dry Suit Dive 2 skills, and the Dry Suit Specialty.

Sidemount Diver – integrate knowledge development, confined water requirements and practical application anytime during the Open Water course. Complete Sidemount Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3 or 4. Conduct Sidemount Dives 2 and 3 after Open Water Diver certification. Minimum student diver age is 15.

Specialties without Dives
Enriched Air Diver may be combined with any core PADI course, even Open Water.* Integrate Enriched Air knowledge development, the pre-dive simulation and practical application exercises at any time during a PADI scuba course. Enriched air dives are not required, however, the minimum student diver age is 12.

* The student must complete their Open Water Diver certification before being certified as an Enriched Air Diver, but you can plan dive 4 using Enriched Air.

The Project AWARE Specialist and AWARE Coral Reef Specialty courses do not require dives and may be added to any PADI course. Consider offering these certifications as part of an Eco Master Scuba Diver program.

Emergency Oxygen Provider + PADI Rescue Diver
The Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty course can replace Rescue Exercise 9 in the PADI Rescue Diver course (first aid for pressure-related injuries and oxygen administration). Incorporate knowledge development at any point before or during your Rescue Diver course.

Bridging the Gap

Open Water to PADI Advanced Open Water
Divers often say they don’t feel ready to enroll in the Advanced Open Water course. But as every PADI Pro knows, Advanced Open Water is the ideal way for new divers to build confidence and improve their skills.

An easy way to help divers take the next step is to conduct an adventure dive following Open Water Dive 4. Dive Against Debris, Peak Performance Buoyancy and Underwater Naturalist are great options. Incorporate the knowledge development into your briefing, and when the dive is over, ask students if they had fun and what they learned. Then tell them that’s what the Advanced Open Water class is all about!

Important:

  • Students who choose to enroll in your Advanced Open Water class must complete the Continuing Education Administrative Document (10038 or EU 10541) before the second Adventure Dive.
  • Do not conduct more than three training dives in one day.

Advanced Open Water to Specialties
Each Adventure Dive from the Advanced Open Water Diver course may count toward Dive 1 of a standardized PADI/AWARE Specialty Diver course (or vice versa) if the diver has completed the relevant knowledge review. Your Advanced Open Water Divers may not realize they’ve completed half of a PADI Specialty course (see pages 32-33 of the 2018 PADI Instructor Manual to view the number of dives required for each specialty, most only require two dives, but some require three or four).

Exception: For the Digital Underwater Photography Specialty, Dive 1 may credit as an Adventure Dive only if it is conducted using scuba equipment in open water. If not, then credit Digital Underwater Photography Dive 2.

Discover Scuba® Diving to Open Water Diver
By conducting Confined Water Dive 1 skills during the Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) program, you can:

  • Add value to your DSD program
  • Help student divers build confidence
  • Award Confined Water Dive 1 credit to successful participants
  • Sell more Open Water classes

Students who successfully complete the confined water skills and participate in the optional open water dive may also earn credit towards Dive 1 of Open Water. Brief and conduct Open Water Dive 1 skills with DSD participants who have previously mastered Confined Water Dive 1 skills. Students who are successful earn credit towards Open Water Dive 1.
Open Water to Rescue Diver
PADI Open Water Divers can improve their confidence, become better buddies, and get a taste of the serious fun divers have in the PADI Rescue Diver course by participating in the confined water session. It’s also a great way to keep divers active during colder months when open water diving may not be possible.

Open Water Divers may participate in both Rescue Diver Knowledge Development and Rescue Exercises in confined water. They may also earn the Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty which takes the place of Rescue Exercise 9 (see above).

IMPORTANT: Do not combine the performance requirements for two or more dives, such as Adventure Dives or specialty course dives, into one dive so that credit is received for more than one rating.

By linking PADI courses, you can become a MSDT, or Master Instructor much faster than teaching each course separately. Plus, you’ll help students work their way to the prestigious Master Scuba Diver rating. Last but not list, you might win a free 2019 renewal by participating in the PADI Master Scuba Diver Challenge.